Sunday, July 10, 2005

The emotional/psychological component of our professional lives

I found Hall’s six “Talking Points on Textualizing Process” (on pp. 47-53) very helpful, although the example of his particular working style made me a little crazy to even contemplate. But I thought that the six points were generalizable enough so that they would apply to all kinds of working styles and strategies. I’ve typed up this list to post above my desk in my office as a source of ongoing strategizing for scholarly productivity.

But the thing I liked most in Hall’s book was his emphasis on the emotional and psychological component of our professional lives. As he says, “No vita, however impressive, is worth the personal and communal misery that comes with such a narrow life” (59). One statement that was a truism, but the kind of truism that I need to be reminded of frequently: “While we will often find ourselves in less than ideal circumstances, our responses to those circumstances—often far more than the circumstances themselves—will determine our degree of contentment and the future course of our departments and universities” (78).

In particular, I was interested in his emphasis on relationships, on “the web that connects us to our departments, to our colleagues across the nation, and to the many strands of national/international political and social life” (92). For example, the last two items in his list of “Small Steps in the Process of Professional Invigoration” (in Ch. 3) are both about relationships:
“9. Withdraw gracefully and responsibly from unproductive professional relationships” (63).
“10. Establish micro-support networks that both nurture and challenge you professionally” (64).

This connection between professional success and personal relationships is the theme running throughout the end of the book. Two quotations I marked for future rereading:
“ ‘Success’ is almost always individually defined, as we compete for awards, recognition, and, of course, scarce jobs. Yet when we actually begin our jobs, much of our happiness and sense of fulfillment will come from whether or not we are members of a healthy community, one that we must contribute to supplely, responsibly, at times even humbly.” (67)

“Comparison as the primary determinant of ‘success’ will always threaten our relationships with colleagues and the functionality of our communities. … [We] must shift our definition of professional success from one that is solely comparison-based to one emphasizing self-generated and collective goal achievement.” (75)

I’ve been struggling over the past several years to reshape my definition of success. This is clearly going to be an ongoing area of personal and professional growth for me, but I found Hall’s final chapter and postscript, in particular, a helpful source in this long-term “textualizing” project.